Perhaps the most unexpected (yet totally predictable) new phone at this year's show is the Samsung SGH-i320. This GSM smartphone has the increasingly popular "thin Blackberry" form factor. The Nokia E61 and Motorola Q are near-identical competitors in this space. The HP hw6500 and new hw6900 are in a similar league as well.
The i320 is thinner than the E61, and just slightly thinner than the Q. However the real difference is in the other dimensions, where the i320 is noticeably smaller than the Q, and makes the E61 look positively huge. The small size gives the i320 a more proportional and comfortable feel in average-size hands. However, this of course forces the keyboard to be much more cramped than the competition. In our brief testing, the keyboard usability did seem to suffer from being cramped, although not as much as we expected. The pocketable size may be worth the trade-off for some people.
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The i320 is also amazingly lightweight at only 3.35 oz. The Q is also fairly light at just over 4 ounces, but the size-weight ratio makes the Q feel somewhat cheap and plasticky. The i320's smaller size and slightly contoured front give it a much more solid feel.
The i320 has EDGE and Bluetooth, as one might expect. It also has a microSD memory card slot, although it's not externally-accessible. In fact (in a giant step backward in memory card technology) you have to remove the battery to change the microSD memory card.
Oddly, the SIM card is accessible without removing the battery. It's as if some engineer misread a schematic and mixed up the two types of card slots. Fortunately, the i320 does at least have 120 MB of built-in memory.
The i320 is remarkably like the Motorola Q. They're both Windows Mobile 5 devices of the Smartphone type (which means no touchscreen.) They also both have landscape QVGA displays and megapixel cameras. One key feature of the Q that the i320 unfortunately lacks is the Blackberry-style thumb scroll wheel.
Like the new HP hw6900, the i320 has the Messaging & Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5, which brings true push-email capability when used with the newest version of Microsoft Exchange Server.
The i320 we tried was pre-loaded with a few custom home screen layouts. They seem to feature media (music) playback prominently, but otherwise don't look like anything special.
Unfortunately, the i320 doesn't seem aimed at the U.S. market. It's only tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900. With no GSM 850, there's no chance of Cingular or T-Mobile carrying it, unless Samsung whips up a tweaked version for them that adds 850. But as usual, T-Mobile users will be able to import it and use it, they just won't get full roaming coverage.
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